The Malinois was made to work; they need a sense of purpose and the possibility to participate in highly intense activities in order to satisfy their needs, which means you can see a Malinois working nonstop for hours, without losing focus.
Although their anatomy is perfectly adapted to such demands, they can still suffer from joint lesions; there are a few steps you can take in order to prevent them, before, during and after the activities. You can start when your Malinois is still a puppy, by offering him a high-quality food: if the puppy’s growth rhythm is well supported with the right nutrients, it will be able to develop strong bones and create a good joint support system.
Joint Health and Maintenance
Remember that cartilage doesn’t regrow, so it’s vital that it develops correctly during puppyhood. During the Mal’s adult life, remember to provide him with enough glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate, whether in his diet or through supplementation, if necessary. These nutrients are vital for maintaining healthy joints and reducing the prevalence of problems such as arthritis or elbow and hip dysplasia.
Being regularly seen by a holistic veterinarian is also vital; a vet will be able to tell you which sports are safe for your Malinois, according to his body structure and overall health.
When playing sports with your Malinois, make sure you don’t forget to warm up first! Take your Malinois for a 30-minute fast-paced walk and offer him water from time to time, to prevent dehydration, especially if the weather is warm. Don’t allow him to drink large amounts of water at a time, though.
Postures and Sudden Movements
Start slowly and gradually increase the intensity of the activity; if it includes a lot of jumping, pay attention to how your Malinois lands. An incorrect positioning of the forelimbs can lead to joint problems and premature cartilage destruction. To correct incorrect postures and movements, start by presenting the Malinois with smaller obstacles and gradually increase their height; you can also implement proprioception exercises: these will allow the Malinois to better coordinate movements.
Cool Down and Massage
After an intense sports session with your Belgian Malinois, it’s important to provide enough hydration and rest. You can also do some stretching and cool down exercises, such as massaging the muscles and joints (you can do this by moving your thumb in a circular motion, going up and down the desired area), extending and retracting the dog’s entire limb (slowly and gently), simulating a circular movement (by making the limb move forward, downward, backward and upward) or simply flexing and extending the elbow, carpus, stifle and hock joints.
A comfortable bed is also very important in order to protect the Mal’s musculoskeletal system and prevent bone deformities that may appear as the dog ages. Adjust the sport’s intensity to your dog’s health; ask your veterinarian to perform x-rays on your dog’s joints if necessary. However, don’t overexpose to x-rays as that can too be harmful.